Coronavirus Today: Pandemic postal problems


Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, Aug. 20. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Earlier in the pandemic, workers for the U.S. Postal Service were fielding huge volumes of mail and package deliveries for people who were trying to stay at home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

At one mail processing plant in Los Angeles, employees were working six days a week and still struggling to keep up, said a mail handler there. But when Louis DeJoy took over as postmaster general two months ago, he reduced overtime and cut schedules back to five days a week.

Within days, the facility was in chaos: Packages were piling up, food had begun rotting inside of boxes, and medications were expiring. Baby chickens and crickets, animals traditionally transported by the USPS, had died due to the delays.

Another consequence of the cutbacks: Residents of a public housing complex in L.A.’s Mar Vista neighborhood were told by the postmaster for nearby Culver City of a new plan to deliver mail not to their doors but to centralized locations outside. That plan has raised concerns about the safety of going out to get the mail in the midst of a pandemic, and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, worried it would expose seniors and other vulnerable residents to “unnecessary public health risks.”


President Trump has said his administration’s opposition to new funding for the cash-strapped Postal Service is intended to limit voting by mail, saying mail-in ballots are more vulnerable to election fraud — a claim for which there is no evidence — and that mail-in voters tend to favor Democrats. Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to DeJoy that the slowdown in mail delivery has been devastating to a country still in the grip of the pandemic. “Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem — during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” they wrote.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 3:10 p.m. PDT Thursday:

More than 650,200 California cases and at least 11,738 deaths as of 3:10 p.m. PDT Thursday, Aug. 20.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

See the current status of California’s reopening, county by county, with our tracker.

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Across California

Orange County public health officials on Wednesday reported the county’s first COVID-19-related death of a juvenile, a teenage girl who had underlying medical conditions. She was the second Californian under 18 whose death was confirmed to be related to the coronavirus; the first was a Central Valley teen who also had underlying health problems.

Cases among California children and adolescents were up 150% last month, a rate that outpaced COVID-19 infections overall and establishes minors as a small but growing share of the state’s overall cases. Still, things seem to have improved in L.A. County. The county’s chief medical officer said Thursday that new coronavirus cases may soon drop below 200 per 100,000 residents for two weeks — low enough for officials to apply for waivers to reopen elementary schools.

San Diego County is off the state’s monitoring list and has begun the 14-day countdown until local K-12 school districts are allowed to reopen for in-person instruction at their discretion. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said during a briefing Wednesday that local officials are in discussions with the state about how a broader set of activities could be allowed. “That does not mean that next week everything will reopen, but we are working with the state to get the guidance,” he said.



— For general safety, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (here’s a super-fun how-to video). Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean. Practice social distancing, maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public. And wear a mask if you leave home. Here’s how to do it right.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going there.
— Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s how to receive a free test if you’re in L.A. County. And here’s a map of testing sites across California.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
— If your job has been affected by the pandemic, here’s how to file for unemployment.
— Here are some free resources for restaurant workers and entertainment industry professionals having trouble making ends meet.
— Advice for helping kids navigate pandemic life includes being honest about uncertainties, acknowledging their feelings and sticking to a routine. Here’s guidance from the CDC.
— In need of mental health services? Here are resources for coping during the crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. L.A. County residents can also call (800) 854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.

Around the nation and the world

More than half of Americans believe students should continue their education through some form of distance learning amid the pandemic, a national poll has found. Around 52% of those surveyed said they opposed reopening K-12 schools for in-person instruction this fall, and close to 80% said they believed hybrid, online-only or home-school instruction would be most beneficial for students. While parents have expressed angst over the loss of school-based services, the inadequacy of Zoom and missed social opportunities for their children, many don’t want to risk the safety and health of their children.

More and more patients with COVID-19 are opting to be treated where they feel safest: at home. That’s been possible thanks to the rise in “hospital at home” programs that employ communications technology, portable equipment and teams of medical workers. These programs have reduced the strain on overburdened hospital facilities while easing the minds of patients.

This weekend, three movies will open exclusively in theaters across much of the country — the first new theatrical releases since multiplexes were forced to shut their doors five months ago. Though theaters are still closed in California, New York and a handful of other states, the movie industry has found itself trying to salvage what little remains of a battered summer season. However, the extent to which people will feel safe frequenting a high-risk space such as a theater remains to be seen.

Our questions answered

Today, we’re asking our readers: Have you tried to renegotiate your rent in Southern California?

The coronavirus-triggered economic downturn is bringing rents down in major cities across the country, including Los Angeles, as landlords seek to fill rising vacancies by trimming prices.

The declines appear concentrated in the top end of the marketplace, according to multiple data sources, but there are signs rents are falling slightly on the lower end as well, business reporter Andrew Khouri found. And some tenants have used this knowledge to talk to their landlords about lowering their monthly rents.


The Times wants to know: Have you been able to successfully renegotiate your rent? You can share your experience using this form.

Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you. Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them. You can find more answers in our Frequently Asked Questions roundup and in our reopening tracker.

For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times over the weekend, visit our homepage and our Health section, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.